F*ck it days

I woke up feeling a bit crummy today. I don’t know if it was a hangover from last night’s beers, the 20 hour return flight from Indonesia or post-tour blues. But I felt the need to pull my shit together, grow up, drink green juice, pat puppies, donate to charity, become an excellent human being.

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I’m kid free until Wednesday. It’s weird being kid free when you’re a single parent. There’s not a great deal of stuff that you HAVE to do when you’re on your own, but there’s plenty of things that you can totally do because you are on your own.

Like brunch. And brunch I did.

Like cooking food that doesn’t include ‘hidden’ veggies. And cook I did.

Like go into a bookshop and make book choices based on recommendations and peruse in your own time, rather than purchase a tale on getting rid of night-time nappies (for my kid, not me) at 11pm using my phone with only one eye open. And bookshop I did.

Alone time is rad time. As a permanent over-thinker of life, it’s made me think about what happens next when life goes back to normality and I’m a 35 year old single mum divorcee again.

I was explaining this to the bespectacled man behind the bookshop counter and we workshopped some life tips. It was an inspirational thirty minutes. Actually life-changing. So life changing, I need to share my new curated life tips with you:

  1. Know your boundaries. Respect them and respect others.
  2. Brush your hair daily.
  3. Find the origin of your anxiety and embrace its roots. Chill.
  4. Don’t overthink tomorrow today.
  5. Go outside.
  6. Don’t put yourself down. You are rad.
  7. Say ‘thank  you’ instead of ‘sorry’.
  8. Be positive in your position.
  9. One thing at a time.
  10. Other people’s reactions are not your fault.
  11. Drink water until your wee runs clear. Clear wee equals a clear mind.
  12. Ask people questions about life. Learn along the way.
  13. Pack a lunch every day to look forward to.
  14. Get soaked in nature, not screens.
  15. You deserve good bed linen. Make the investment.

The Bookshop Boy sold me a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A Fuck. This is where I’m at right now. Wanna do this together? Let’s not give fucks together.

Love Ali.

Finding a (hangover) cure

I woke up with a hangover. A deep, throbbing, truly embedded red wine stinger. I thought I’d been well behaved. My best buddies had joined me for dinner and had brought over a couple of bottles to enjoy with the beef. I had obviously got a little carried away with my cooking confidence, thinking my delicate sips were in controlled fashion.

If I had of been in my twenties, kid free and frivolous, I would have slept it off; escaping my bed because I was sick of it by 2pm. Brunching late into the afternoon, eating avocado because I didn’t have a mortgage and reading a broadsheet newspaper from cover to cover because I had the room.

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But not this time, not this decade, not in this current climate. My hangover was welcomed to Sunday with a hardcover Richard Scarry book wedged into my eyelid and a cry of a wet pyjama pant followed by demands for breakfast and Octonauts and Lego and activity. Ouch. It was 6.07am.

Trying to hide my disappointment in myself, I made pikelets and demolished them as best as I could just so I could shovel some Panadol into my body. I drank tea. I drank Nescafe. I had a sneaky cup of cordial. I was on a mission to destroy this heavy beast that was consuming my body.

It was now 11.30am. The sun was bright. We went to Williamstown Beach.

For someone who grew up in country North-East Victoria, I find it such a joy to live so close to the beach. I mean, you can ride your pushie to the water from where I live. However, on this day I chose to drive. I had promised my son a sandcastle and we had packed three Tonka trucks – and carrying those metal beasts anywhere is a commitment.

We arrived and set up our spot: towel, lunch box, Tonkas, buckets, shovels. We were set for at least a few hours.

And hell, if there is anything to rid yourself of a filthy hangover, it’s Willy beach on the cusp of spring. That fresh sea breeze off the water is enough to lift your spirits (and lift any spirits seeping out of your body). Dipping your toes into the freezing water is a spiritual release of any toxins trying to escape from your winter-fied toenails.

And if that’s not enough, tucked right at the tip of the bay is Kiosk D’Asporto; a delightful, sunny, super-happy café that will turn any hangover frown upside down. Cakes, donuts, milkshakes, gelato, pulled pork sandwiches, salads and seriously THE BEST fish and chips you can find westside.

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On this particularly ‘difficult’ day for me, I was super grateful for the smiley, stunning owner handing over a small cup of red jelly to my son who almost wept with joy at the treat. It was a top distraction for the anticipation of the freshly fried lunch goodness that was coming our way.

We ate our treats and watched the footy players wade through the fresh water, the pooches splashing about with sticks and balls and a weird fish-looking thing and a couple of hotties on their skateboards proving that being in your late thirties doesn’t mean you can’t smash out a few grinds along the esplanade.

With the lunch in our bellies, the hangover well and truly forgotten (except for reciting it word for word in this column), we built a mega sandcastle, collected some shells and blessed the sunshine and sea for making us feel so jolly good. We headed back home to Yarraville, sand still between our toes and our jean cuffs damp and sticky from the ocean.

With tea well and truly on my mind along with the downhill slope to bedtime on the horizon, I decided to not be a parental hero and cook up a storm but instead give the new local pizza joint, D’Asporto, a go.

The same owners as my lunch time haunt of the day, the pizza – just like my lunch – was unforgettably gorgeous. Traditional in all the right ways, with toppings to top off any hangover day and a base so textured and balanced, it can barely be described, just illustrated with a fine tip pen in an archival document for future generations to study.

My son and I demolished two pizzas (as takeaway in the comfort of our own home), we bathed and were in pjs by 7pm. It had been a big day, but the seaside had reset it and our D’Asporto pals had fixed it. It was perfect.

Treat yourself to a double decker D’Asporto Day this week. You will be a better human for it.

You can find The Kiosk D’Asporto at 99 Esplanade, Williamstown and Pizza D’Asporto at 2-6 Ballarat Street, Yarraville (in the Village Green).

This article first appeared in the September issue of The Westsider.

Dates with a single mum

My ‘dating space’ is limited to one night per week. Funnily enough, I’m not short of dates, being the dorky self that I am.
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I do, however, think it’s important to define what I mean by ‘dates’ though.

A DATE: By Ali’s definition
A date is a glorious human being, someone who I have recognised as kind, warm, funny and entertaining. Someone who enjoys an ale and a laugh, who is honest and accepting.

I go on dates with excellent gents who I’ve met through Tinder or through beautiful friends. I also go on loads of lady dates with my gorgeous girlfriends. Dating isn’t always about sex.

Dating should not be hard, but sometimes it is. Sometimes the conversation doesn’t flow (and I get awkward), sometimes a date doesn’t turn up (and I get awkward), sometimes the date cancels at the last minute just after you’ve touched on your Myki ready for a night out (and I get awkward).

But, most of the time, the date rocks up and they are super awesome. We chat about everything from music to food to disliking Brendan Fraser. We always talk about dating.

I have met so many stunning humans through dating – people I would never have met twelve months ago when I was soaked in what I thought was domestic married bliss.

I talk to my pals about dating all the time. It’s an interesting topic and so many people are curious about what happens on ‘dates’ – especially my blissfully married friends. There are a lot of skeptics out there though, people who comment on how dangerous it is. I totally get that, yes you need to be aware and safe and tell your mates what you’re doing and where you’re going.

The one comment I hear a lot though is ‘all men are bastards’.

If there is one thing I have discovered during this wonderful dating time is that this statement is so far from the truth. I have met the most wonderful, intellectual, daringly entertaining, insightful, hilarious, gentlemently gents over the past few months. Men with heart and soul and compassion and a desire to hold hands and cook feasts.

I don’t know where this statement comes from, but what I do know is that my son will be growing up to be a delicious young man. Through all of these divine men that I have met recently, I’m learning so much about what makes a man great and I’m taking these elements and throwing them into the wild mix of learn-as-you-go parenting that I’m so accustomed to.

And what a delightful journey this is.

So if you are keen on a date, all it takes is a little ‘hello’ to get the ball rolling.

Karma Chameleon

The old saying rings true: It takes a village. For years I had no idea what this meant. It takes a village to… to do what exactly?
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Last year friends and neighbours and kind friendly faces dropped off prepared meals, chocolates, and flowers after an unexpected traumatic event happened in my life. These sweet generous people were not being nosy or obtrusive, but caring, injecting a big shot of good old fashioned kindness and wellbeing into my home.

More recently, following a car accident, I received a similar reaction – offers of babysitting, meals, cuppas, milk and bread collections, a neighbour even brought my bins in for me. My heart melted behind my fractured ribs.

Weird, hey?

It’s weird to think of this as weird, because it is anything but weird. However in this crazy fast-paced, time-poor world in which we live, these random acts of kindness can seriously stop you in your tracks.

I have often declined kind offers of generosity. Not because I am too proud, but because I don’t want to put someone out, have someone waste their precious time on me.

There it is again, the mention of the word ‘time’. Oh it’s such a juicy buzzword that’s used just as much as the word ‘busy’! We’re all so time poor now; I myself am a sucker for being flat chat, a busy beaver, diarised to the doorbell!

But then, last week happened. I was forced to slow down and it was oh-so-good. My son was sick, I was unwell and it was cold.

There was no rushing in the morning to get out the door to get somewhere. There was no alarm clock, no traffic to beat or miss, no schedule to follow (except the TV guide), there were no rules. Just survival.

I must admit, the first two days I felt a little stressed, out of control. I wasn’t sure what to do with all the time I had. My son and I gently played with Lego, drew some pictures, watched some movies, baked some treats and when we felt up to it, we walked to our local shops.

We took our time and spoke to the butcher about her day and what kind of cut we needed for the slow cooker recipe we had in mind. The butcher gave us some tips and my son a Frankfurt sausage. We went to the chemist and were greeted with a ‘Good morning Ali and Alfie’ – our first names. I didn’t even know the first name of the guy who was greeting me. We went to our favourite café, Feedback, where my son chose a toy to play with while the owner discussed Lightning McQueen with him in detail as though he was my son’s kinder bestie. A stop in the local op shop saw volunteer Wendy comment on how big Alfie was getting and as we walked home through the park, we saw a few friends who asked how we were doing and we shared a coffee and some sweet gossip on my dating life.

I didn’t realise just how much of a community I had created for myself, or more to the point, how much of a community it was that I lived in.

Upon returning to my home, my son and I curled up in our sickly state on the couch – me crocheting a blanket for a friend, he watching a nostalgic Disney film – all with the sweet smell of local produce cooking away on the stove top.

When we heard the knock on the door, we had no idea who it could be but the thought of a cuppa with a neighbour was calling.

It’s common place for us now to have sweet treats ready for a visitor, tea caddy always
full and the kettle running hot and heavy all weekend. But I didn’t realise it until now, just how important a community is.

It certainly does take a village. A village to make a home.

I totally recommend checking out your local village. There are plenty of them in the inner west. Say hi to the shopkeepers, introduce yourself, meet some new people, have cuppas and share garden produce with your neighbours. And when you feel ready, offer a hand to someone who might need one. You never know, there could be a hot cuppa and a freshly cut slice waiting for you in the kindest possible way.

This article first appeared in the August edition of The Westsider.

Wasting time / timing waste

It started with my bin. It’s always full, bursting, overloading with trash, every single day. How could I have so much rubbish? Sure, my kid is still wearing night time nappies which are virtually wet sandbags by the morning, but outside of this what was filling my bin to the point of explosion every day?
It was simply waste. So much waste I was starting to question my wastefulness. Which is exactly what I did.
Having become a single parent in my mid-thirties has made me think about my budget and what I’m spending. Removing a whole second wage from my bank account came as a shock, but not as big a shock as the discovery of the waste I was creating in my own little household bin.
My bin was filled with food scraps, left overs, wrappers, plastic bags, old clothes, broken shit and of course those shockingly heavy night time nappies (seriously, at what age do kids stop wearing these?)
It was somewhat refreshing seeing my bin in this state. I needed to make a change and stop throwing my money in the, well, bin. The food wastage was a big one for me.
I started with eating my fridge and pantry down. I wanted a clean slate. Start afresh, become a vegan, only drink green juice, be a better person, stop swearing, pat dogs. All the things.
It was hard to start. I had to become creative with my cooking through using grains, rice and pasta and finding fun and interesting ways to use the vegies in the crisper. Instead of throwing out the vegies starting to turn to scrap, I made soup. I used all my canned legumes in soups, salads and chilli. I froze any large cook ups to eat in desperate times and then came the day where I simply had run out of food.
I cleaned my pantry and I ordered a sweet box of seasonal fruit and veg from a local greengrocer. It was delivered a day later and it was enough to get me through my week. I wrote a menu on the back of an envelope for the week based on my fruit and veg and bam, I felt like Suzy Homemaker. The box of fruit and veg cost me a grand total of $28 and teamed with a few extra items from the local supermarket, I was now on my way to smashing out a pineapple ($50) for a grocery bill each week. 
And I felt smart for it.
There’s something else that has been bothering me about my waste. It was my clothes. In between my crazy full time hours, the full time parenting, the swimming lessons, the kinder pick ups and drop offs, the cooking (and eating down my pantry) and of course the dating, I’d become a slave to fast fashion. A slave to the e-newsletters offering free delivery, sales, ‘hot looks this winter’, ‘Buy 2 get 1 free’, 20% discount for 20 hours. Gah! It’s all a little overwhelming, but the marketing had been working on me. A little too well.
So I cleansed my wardrobe, removing the clothing I hadn’t worn in years (do I seriously need maternity clothes as a single mum with a four year old?) and sold or donated what I didn’t want, wear, or just didn’t fit anymore (see above reason as to why). I created a rule for myself – no purchasing of new clothes for a month, maybe two and see how I survive. And so far, I’m still alive with only a receipt highlighting a purchase for some new undies in the pile.
Homemade dress from a Ken Done curtain, $4 wool jacket from the local Vinnies, $5 leather boots from eBay. FUN!
Don’t get me wrong, I like a good shop but for me it’s about the hunt. Online shopping is just too easy, the sales are too accessible, the click throughs are too available, I think the models wearing the clothes look just so ‘similar’ to me (in my dreams). So I’ve turned to op-shopping. It’s fun, it’s entertaining for my kid and now my home is filled with miscellaneous treasures that tell a story. From the eighties skateboard linen on my son’s bed, to my dress made from a Ken Done curtain, life shouldn’t be about throwing out stuff for waste’s sake. It should be fun, colourful and filled with rad stories and adventure.
It’s been an interesting experiment and it seems I’m not alone. With so much inspiration behind the ABC’s recent War on Waste program and hearing my mates discuss their wasteful waste, it’s nice to hear of plans to diminish the size of our bin loads. My bin is looking a lot healthier as is my fridge and pantry and my purse is giving me the thumbs up for it.
I’ve still got a long way to go, but the best thing about recognising my bin is a disaster is knowing my bin is a disaster. I’d love to swap stories of saving, sharing and recycling. So let’s not waste any more time on waste.

Follow me at www.houseofwebb.blogspot.comor on Instagram or Facebook @houseofwebb and let’s do this together. 

A Dating Test at Slice Girls West

It was my first Tinder date and I obviously had no idea what I was doing, but I wanted to look like I did.
I had a plan.
We were to meet at The Reverence in Footscray at 6pm. I was going to give the Tinder Date two hours and then I was going to meet my girlfriends at Back Alley Sally’s at 8pm as a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card. If we liked each other, we would plan another date. If we didn’t, I had an escape route.
It seemed flawless.
Except upon arriving at The Reverence five minutes early, I discovered it was closed. The only other bar I could think of moving the date to was Back Alley Sally’s around the corner where I was meeting my pals. It was a risk, but I was under time pressure and I had to make a decision. Fast.

After changing my seating position three times: the booth (too open), the bar (too closed), the corner table with stools (too awkward in high waisted jeans), I chose an open large table that wasn’t too noisy. The bar was super warm and friendly in comparison to the rainy Melbourne night, and the beer selection was ripe for the picking.
My date arrived from the inner Northern suburb of Carlton admitting that the change in venue and the threatening dark laneway where Back Alley Sally’s sits in Footscray was a little scary.
The bar had already made me feel at ease so we discussed the venue, the attractive staff, the beers and pizzas available from Slice Girls West below.

Then it got serious. My date stopped the conversation bluntly, staring me intently in the eye, pausing to gather his thoughts. He was scripting something.
‘Ali. I’m so sorry. I really am. I just have to tell you something and I’m not sure how this is going to go.’
I felt sick. I was a crap date.
‘Your fly is so undone. It’s so open. I’m trying so hard to look you straight in the eye and hold conversation, but I can’t go on. I’m sorry.’
I looked down and my 30cm zipper on my high waisted jeans was wide open, like a vortex, alarmingly displaying my white knickers for all to see. Sitting on a stool did not help this situation.
I zipped up and told my Tinder Date that I wanted to go home. He laughed, explained that he was ready to move on and continue our time as long as I could forget that it had happened (I obviously haven’t). So we drank more beers and smashed out a few laughs. He was a funny guy.
Ten minutes before my girlfriends were set to arrive, I gave him a warning: ‘My girfriends are on their way, they will squeal with delight at catching us on a Tinder Date, they will quiz you, they will drink and swear and ask you intimate questions. You are welcome to stay and drink with us, or you can use this time as your get out of jail free card.’
He stayed. We drank. We laughed. My girlfriends quizzed. It was now a Tinder Date of Five. He left a while later and we exchanged numbers. I ran back inside the bar and debriefed with my girlfriends over more beer and pizzas from Slice Girls West.
The pizza toppings quickly diverted our discussion: The Forever Mushroom with its truffle-scent provided distraction from the filthy but entertaining conversation coming from our booth. The crust was perfect in my opinion, not too thin, prepared well and cared for and cut in perfect sharable sizes. The Wannabe Warwick pizza with its artichokes and capers matched our gossipy squeals as our table discussed boys like we were 16 again. But it wasn’t just the pizzas, the Tinder Date banter and booze that made for an excellent night; the staff at Back Alley Sally’s were so friendly, the venue was cosy and I felt like I was surrounded by friends even though the bar was full of strangers.
It was an excellent start to a new friendship. The Tinder Date got my number and we ventured out a week later on a second date. There quite possibly might be a third. Perhaps it was because of my cool choice of venue or maybe it was my ridiculous friends, either way if you’re looking for a sweet place to meet a kind stranger, Back Alley Sally’s might just be the spot you’ve been searching for.
Back Alley Sally’s and Slice Girls West can be found at 4 Yewers Street, Footscray. Visit www.backalleysallys.com.au for more information and to view the delicious menu.

Photos courtesy Back Alley Sally’s.

Putting the Super in Superannuation and other financial things I’ve learnt while getting my shit together

I’ve had to do some pretty hardcore adulting of late and I’ve got to say, it’s been fun – challenging – but fun. I can totally do this adult thing!

One adult event that I’ve never been wildly great at is finances. I’m great at saving, but outside of a bank account I’ve always been overwhelmed by the ‘financial things’ you’re meant to have by a certain age.

I’ve read a gazillion of those ‘must have in your ’30s articles’ and have had random chats with friends about health insurance deals. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m bored senseless by the topic or it just overwhelms me blindly, but I just can’t seem to find the time to invest my brain in this information let alone my wallet.

But. This is adulting and the investment in the time now is an investment in the future (I sound like a guru already!)

Now that it’s just me and my jolly child, I’ve had to pull together a bit of a list of grown up financial things that I need to get sorted in order to get my shit together, not just for me but for my son. Because I couldn’t find a list of shit to do that suited me and my solo parent situation, I thought I’d put one together. Perhaps you can help me add to it?

One thing you need to know is that I’m not a money expert. I’m on a shoestring week-to-week. I work full time, I’m a single parent, I have kinder fees and I love my job in the arts because it is so bloody special and rewarding (not because it pays me the big bucks). I also have a financial advisor. A what??

Ok. Here’s what I’ve learnt:

Financial Advisor
These people are incredible. They are really excited by numbers, by spreadsheets and they can see into your financial future. A financial advisor helps you understand what all the numbers mean.
AND you can pay their fee out of your superannuation fund so it doesn’t affect your day-to-day account.

Superannuation
Do you know how much you have in your super account? It’s good to check this out and if you can, perhaps try and add a little bit extra each week. We are lucky that we can put aside a little fund that is untouchable until the day you decide to rest and go sailing. I’ve just set up a self managed super fund which means I have full control of my account, my coin and I also get to be made a director of my super fund (which is another great title for adulting). This is your golden egg for the years to come. Keep an eye on it and feel secure.

Insurance
If you own a house, I’m sure you have house insurance. Same goes for a car.
What happens though if you have a massive bike stack or fall off the playground and hit your head on a sharp pine cone and you can’t work for months? Life, health, disability, trauma… they are all massive words and they all come with insurance. Gah… it sounds like spending money that you just don’t have. But what happens if something happens? How do you keep food on the table, mortgage or rent payments up, bills paid? It’s a little bit of food for thought. Not that you want to think about bad things happening, but it’s good to have a plan.

Will
If you have some assets, get a will. If you cark it it’s good to know that your rad bike, transformer set, record collection, avocados or Yarraville house is going to be kept safe in the hands of the person of your choice. It costs a little bit to do, but then it’s done. You can change it as required… ie if you get a divorce or you buy a new bike or you have another kid.

Budget
Whether it’s a spreadsheet, back of the shopping list drawing or one of the many online tools, it’s so good to have one of these. Recently I wrote down everything I spent over the course of a week. I couldn’t believe how much I was spending on coffee or ‘quick trips’ to Coles New World. It all adds up and I have made some dramatic changes in my daily spending. It takes an hour or so and some brain space to start a budget, but once it’s down it gives you a pretty sweet look into your spending habits and where you can save that extra coin.

It’s all a bit grown up, but now that I’ve pulled this stuff together – all in my name – I feel like I’m in control of my life and I know where my money is going. I’ve started to take an interest in the topic, perhaps now because I’m on one wage and I want to know where every cent belongs. It gives me a great feeling of security. In my former life, I might have left a lot of the financial stuff up to my ex-husband because he was good at this stuff. However there’s something to be said about if you earn it, learn it.

If you’re looking for a good financial advisor, I use a local Yarraville dude, Andre Dirckze, and he is running workshops on getting your shit together. You can check them out here: https://www.wealtheffect.com.au/single-post/2017/05/03/Mindful-Money-Workshop-Series

This is not a sponsored post, I just really care about this stuff now.

Best of luck and happy saving!